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Enormity
The Big and the Bad

By Evan Jenkins

There’s an undercurrent of awkwardness in the room,” the reporter wrote, “for the imminent enormity of the alternative-medicine industry will not just be demographic but also financial.” Using “enormity” that way — to denote only great size — is like using “fortuitous” to mean “lucky” (“Fortuitous,” CJR, May/June 1997). In both cases, we’re in danger of losing a nice precision. “Enormity” should be reserved for things that are both huge and evil or outrageous, as in “their attempt to convey the enormity of the Holocaust.” To denote sheer size, “enormousness,” though enormous enough itself, is available. So are immensity, vastness and, uh, sheer size, among other words and phrases.

CJR

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Sept / Oct 08

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